A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, May 14, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Cemetery Road by Greg Iles- Feature and Review


Sometimes the price of justice is a good man’s soul.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Natchez Burning trilogy returns with an electrifying tale of friendship, betrayal, and shattering secrets that threaten to destroy a small Mississippi town.

“An ambitious stand-alone thriller that is both an absorbing crime story and an in-depth exploration of grief, betrayal and corruption… Iles’s latest calls to mind the late, great Southern novelist Pat Conroy. Like Conroy, Iles writes with passion, intensity and absolute commitment.”    —  Washington Post 

When Marshall McEwan left his Mississippi hometown at eighteen, he vowed never to return. The trauma that drove him away spurred him to become one of the most successful journalists in Washington, DC. But as the ascendancy of a chaotic administration lifts him from print fame to television stardom, Marshall discovers that his father is terminally ill, and he must return home to face the unfinished business of his past.

On arrival, he finds Bienville, Mississippi very much changed.  His family’s 150-year-old newspaper is failing; and Jet Turner, the love of his youth, has married into the family of Max Matheson, one of a dozen powerful patriarchs who rule the town through the exclusive Bienville Poker Club.  To Marshall’s surprise, the Poker Club has taken a town on the brink of extinction and offered it salvation, in the form of a billion-dollar Chinese paper mill.  But on the verge of the deal being consummated, two murders rock Bienville to its core, threatening far more than the city’s economic future.

An experienced journalist, Marshall has seen firsthand how the corrosive power of money and politics can sabotage investigations. Joining forces with his former lover—who through her husband has access to the secrets of the Poker Club—Marshall begins digging for the truth behind those murders.  But he and Jet soon discover that the soil of Mississippi is a minefield where explosive secrets can destroy far more than injustice.  The South is a land where everyone hides truths: of blood and children, of love and shame, of hate and murder—of damnation and redemption.  The Poker Club’s secret reaches all the way to Washington, D.C., and could shake the foundations of the U.S. Senate.  But by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth about his own history, he would give almost anything not to have to face it.



Cemetery RoadCemetery Road by Greg Iles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles is a 2019 William Morrow publication.

Small town corruption, family tragedies, betrayals, and murder-

In other words- quintessential Greg Iles.

In this standalone novel, award winning journalist, Marshall McEwan, returns home to Bienville, Mississippi to be closer to his parents after his estranged father is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. At least that’s what he tells himself. Deep in his heart, however, he acknowledges an ulterior motive- reuniting with his first love- a woman named Jet, who just happens to be married to his best friend.

But when Buck Ferris, a man who had a strong influence on Marshall, is found dead, Marshall is convinced foul play is at hand. But who would want to kill Buck and why?

Well, Buck may have made a discovery that could derail the proposed installation of a paper mill, which would breathe new life into the slowly dying town of Bienville. A lot is at stake, and the town’s powerful ‘Poker Club’ will make sure the Chinese investors aren’t scared off, which means Buck might have been collateral damage.

As Marshall digs deeper into the circumstances of Buck’s death, the Poker Club members do what they do best- make threats, intimidate, bully, and blackmail, and maybe even murder, anyone who stands in their way- and Marshall and all his dark secrets is in their crosshairs.

Cemetery Road is not just a suspenseful thriller, with all its many twists and turns, and layers of deceptions. It is also a stellar piece of southern fiction, with Gothic elements that only the south can lay claim to.

The characters are flawed- every single one of them- some more than others, and Marshall, no saint himself, is forced to stare his demons in the face, to make eye contact with them, as everything he thought he knew wavers and fades like a mirage in the desert.

Under scrutiny is the moral compromises made in the name of capitalism, the mythology of our youth, the hope of recapturing a lost opportunity, while trying to do what is right for all concerned. For Marshall, it is more personal, perhaps, as he is also coping with deeply embedded grief and carrying a heavy burden of guilt bestowed upon him by his embittered father.

However, he is also trying to save his father's newspaper, cover his own butt, and protect the women he loves.

I often found myself on the edge of my seat, as Marshall survives one major event after another by the seat of his pants, and as the shock waves reverberate relentlessly. It was hard to put the book down for any length of time.

At the end of the day, Iles proves, yet again, his intimate knowledge of the old southern realities, still prevalent and still thriving. But, at the end of the day, his characters, though bruised and bleeding, may finally shake off the ghosts of the past, each in his or her own way, while southern style justice continues to work in the most mysterious of ways.






Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languages and are published in more than 20 countries. In addition to his popular novels, he wrote the original script for the movie 24 Hours (later renamed Trapped).

When not writing, Greg spends some of his time playing music. He's a member of "The Rock Bottom Remainders", which includes other authors (Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and James McBride).

Greg still lives in Natchez, Mississippi, with his wife and has three children.

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